Was Mary Magdalene in love with Jesus? Wouldn’t you be?

We recently celebrated the feast day of Saint Mary Magdalene. You know MM (If she were my friend, I can imagine that I’d be calling her M&M; she’d probably hate that.), she is the redhead you see at the foot of the cross in old church stained glass windows. She, The Blessed Mother and John the Apostle were the only ones brave enough to stay and watch Jesus’ execution through to its bitter end. Mary Magdalene was also the one who first saw Jesus risen from the dead, and who earned the title, “Apostle to the Apostles” because she ran to Peter, John and the rest and told them, “He is risen!”

Over the centuries, there has been speculation about whether Mary was more than just a follower of Jesus. Some, mostly modern fiction writers, suggest that they were secretly-married, with one author taking it so far as to suggest that Jesus had a child by Mary.

Nothing in the Bible supports that. Furthermore, Jesus’ brief 3-year ministry on Earth oftentimes didn’t include time for him to eat, let alone court a woman and marry her. And then there’s the whole self-discipline thing. Jesus was here to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven and to create a Way for us to attain it. He spent 40 days fasting in the desert; he was the King of Self Restraint. An unintended union with a woman is more than highly-unlikely.

Having said all that, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Mary Magdalene was wildly in love with Jesus. He was a good, upstanding man who attracted thousands of followers. She was close to him, so she would have seen what incredible love he had for his fellows. How would she not fall in love?

I once met a young woman from our parish who was discerning the religious life. Although she hadn’t at that time made the commitment, she was clearly in love with Jesus. Her love was both personal and passionate, and many a young man discovered that it was also exclusive. She simply wasn’t interested in anyone else. That particular woman had a long path ahead of her before she would even know whether taking vows are a possibility. And that seemed to be okay. Jesus is worth it.

So, was Mary Magdalene in love with Jesus. Probably. After all, wouldn’t you be?

Remember, you are dust. And that’s okay

Welcome to Lent! Today begins our annual 40 day visit to the strange land called “Self Restraint.” Say goodbye to chocolates, sweets, coffee, alcohol, sex, TV, cursing or whatever earthly indulgence you’ve decided to set aside until Easter. I’m praying that you (and I) will have the self-control to spend the energy on Jesus that we normally spend making our human bodies happy.

I woke up this morning with the phrase, “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (GN 3:19) stuck in my head. For those of you who aren’t Catholic, that is what the Priest will say today when he rubs the sign of the cross on my forehead with ashes. It’s a logical thing to wake up thinking about on Ash Wednesday.

 And it’s also a great place to start my spiritual journey. With those words God was reminding Adam (and me) that we were formed from the things of the earth; the dust. And our human bodies are going to return to that earth. Our lives on Earth are temporary.  We are preparing ourselves to live with God in our true home. A big part of that preparation is recognizing our tiny place in this big universe (Yep, that old “H word” humility). There is only one God and I’m not him. But I can live with him if I choose to.

The World doesn’t like it when we think about our mortality. Everything seems to encourage us to strive to live forever on Earth; to be immortals on this planet.  Everything except that little phrase, “Remember, you are dust.”

In small ways this Lent, you and I will turn away from our temporary life and turn toward the much better life that God has prepared for us. I’ll miss my (FILL IN THE BLANK WITH THIS YEAR’S SACRIFICE), but I am looking forward to having a closer look at heaven. It’s okay to be dust.

Lent with Purpose

I was shuffling through old notes and came across some things I wrote down on Ash Wednesday. They provided a good Lenten Pick-Me-(back)-Up.

I don’t usually pay much attention to the Collect at Mass The “Collect,” (in case you, like me, don’t know what the various parts of the Mass are called), is the prayer that the priest says right at the beginning. It’s the first thing that is read right after he says, “Let us Pray.”

For some reason, God had me tuned in as Father Randy read, “Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.” That spiritual opening whistle caught my ear because I’ve been thinking a lot about self-restraint lately. Actually praying about it. Actually, wishing that I had some. Actually, going crazy because most of my life has been entirely defined, driven and determined by a lack of self-restraint.

Today my body and my spirit show the results of five decades of “If it feels good, do it.” And, like the man who drank until he discovered he no longer had the power to quit, I find to my surprise that it’s difficult, no it’s impossible, to just drop those bad habits and pick up new ones without some sort of help. And then out of the blue, the Church offers up this prayer. Lent has a purpose. It’s a “campaign of Christian service.” We’re not just doing battle with our own weakness, “we take up battle against spiritual evils.” And our weapons are not weapons of mass destruction, but “weapons of self-restraint.”

My Lenten sacrifices have a renewed purpose. We’re here to do battle. God knows there is an enemy out there, and that enemy is constantly trying to pull us down to the earth. It’s trying to prevent us from looking up at Heaven by luring our eyes to buffet, the bar, the TV screen, or that attractive person over there. It’s trying to destroy us.

So, pick up your sword and your shield. Turn away from meat on Fridays, desserts on weekdays, trashy movies on weekends, or whatever your weapons of self-restraint may be. Use this 40 days to make yourself spiritually-stronger. We have a world to win.